COVID-19 Cassandra (#280)

In Greek mythology, Cassandra of Troy was gifted with the power of prophecy—and cursed that no one would believe her. She was a tragic figure, her wailings of death and destruction ignored even as they came to pass.

If you follow bloggers and news out of China, you are not surprised by the spread of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. If you follow the news out of Italy and compare it with Taiwan and South Korea, you know that the United States health care system will be overrun in two weeks with COVID-19 cases—just like Italy.

As soon as you figure this out, you get on the phone or social media and tell everyone to stay home as much as possible. You share everything from charts to interactive data that can’t be denied. You argue with your dad when he won’t cancel a trip. You yell at your best friend M when she says flights are cheap and she wants to come visit. You warn folks that the more people who go out, the more people will die. You write angry, pleading letters to state officials and School Boards, asking them to close down everything.

You are NOT everyone’s favorite person.

But you don’t care. You’re trying to avert disaster, just like Cassandra, who told the foolish Trojans not to bring the damned horse into the city.

You are a COVID-19 Cassandra.

Sadly, just like Cassandra, many people do not believe you.

Even though you are using math to make your case, not magic.

Your President holds rallies and repeatedly says that the Coronavirus threat is nominal, “under control,” and the rate of infection is going down. When he finally acts, it’s too little, too late.

Meanwhile, Republicans go to restaurants with their kids and urge others to do the same.

Idiots on TV insist it’s just a bad flu.

Hipsters in New York City crowd into restaurants and bars as they have always done.

Your own husband’s employer, a massive company with a huge campus, discovers that one of their employees has been exposed to COVID-19. They send him home. But his coworkers? The ones who’ve spent the last week in the same building, a building with no windows? All those potentially infected coworkers are sent to other office buildings while the original building is sanitized—potentially infecting hundreds of others, including your own husband, who does not have the best lungs to begin with. All employees are expected to continue working.

Some warned more gently than others.

You aren’t the only COVID-19 Cassandra, of course. There are plenty of other well-informed, shouty people who also follow the news and believe in math. They yell alongside you on Twitter, Facebook, or even city balconies.

You cheer them on as they attempt to talk sense and safety into Boomer Parents addicted to Fox News.

Sometimes, the Cassandras succeed. Your dad cancels his trip (thanks, Dad). Your friend stays home (good job, M, sorry we can’t quarantine together). Your Big Brother starts reading the news and is “officially freaked out” enough to stay home and worry about the onslaught that’s about to hit your Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister (pay more attention next time, dork).

You rejoice in every school closure, even as you whimper over being trapped with an energetic youngster for the foreseeable future.

But so many still won’t listen.

So you commiserate with your fellow Cassandra converts over the stupidity of your fellow humans.

You wish that COVID-19 would only infect those willfully ignorant, or too selfish, or too privileged to care. Like your own horrible President.

But it won’t. Just like in China, COVID-19 will claim the health care workers on the front lines, no matter how young and strong.

Just like in Italy, COVID-19 will carry off grandparents, young folks with asthma, smokers, mothers fighting cancer, and diabetics.

It will hit those Americans on the margins, who have to work to survive, who can’t work remotely.

And just like Cassandra of Troy,  you will only be able to watch disaster unfold.


Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

17 thoughts on “COVID-19 Cassandra (#280)”

    1. And stupid. Never forget stupid. Stupid enough to force the state to act.

      Our Gov. Gavin Newsom just called for the home isolation of all seniors in the state of California, and the immediate shutdown of bars, nightclubs, brew pubs and wineries.

      1. We’re not quite there yet but it wouldn’t surprise me. I’ve had some emails from businesses that will close for a week or two. Curious to see what my gym does.

  1. I heard from an inside source that shit is going to get real this week. I think we are going to go on national lockdown, just like Italy. Like your sister, I’m afraid my husband is going to be pulling insane shifts once we can actually start testing people…

    Reading about South Korea and Singapore is both inspiring (good job to them!) and infuriating (Trump, you suck!!). The US response really makes my blood boil. I can only say, it’s a shame that we needed a freaking pandemic to rattle Trump’s base. Hopefully this will shake everyone into reality.

    What a nightmare…

    1. Also, I can’t BELIEVE your husband’s company didn’t automatically make everyone quarantine!! WTF that’s ridiculous…

      One of my friends is working a contract nurse job in the bay area, and her hospital won’t let her wear an n95 mask (even though she has asthma). Tonight she decided to up and quit and GTFO. I’m proud of her, but I can’t believe even at THIS POINT the hospitals are limiting n95 mask use. Eugh.

      1. Good for your friend! Not enough money in the world.

        Trying to convince Andy to use vacation time. He’s worried about losing his job. The company isn’t even canceling travel. I hate them. They literally spend millions on lobbying and then treat employees like this…

    2. Oh, yeah, it’s about to be very, very ugly. Cases are climbing by the hour. Dr. Sis has her bag packed, because once she’s at the hospital and the cases pour in, she knows she’s not coming home. She has colleagues in Washington state and she knows what’s coming.

      China bought the west time. Trump squandered it. Negligent homicide at best.

  2. The Cassandra story is really sad. Like most Greek tales, it tells us a lot about human nature. Of course, our situation is especially bad because of our president, the people who work for him and are afraid to contradict him, and FOX News.

    The Seattle area, despite being the most infected, is very receptive to predictions based on math and scientists who know what they’re talking about. Gov. Inslee and Mayor Durkan have been great. Plus, we’re not overrun with FOX News-watching Republicans. Or maybe I’m just spending too much time communicating with my own friends and family.

    1. I think it really does depend on who you talk to. My Twitter was literally filled with people screaming “Doom! Prepare!” for the last month.

      But my Twitter was also disproportionately filled with Warren, Harris, and Castro supporters, soooo…probably not representative of the country as a whole.

  3. Yep, the US is next. And France, and Germany. Actually, the whole of Europe should already be on lockdown by now. Please don’t follow Spain’s example, where after closing down schools, parents will taking children to parks or travelling to their seaside apartments…

    I just don’t understand at what point the rumors about “zombie apocalypse in China”, “people dropping dead on the street” and “crematories burning people 24/7” became “it’s nothing, really”. I also didn’t expect Spain having so many cases. Last week I was super busy and didn’t read the news much, and when I did on Friday… omg.

    1. You are so right. We went from “OMG, we’re all gonna die” to “oh, cool, flights are cheap and I can have a vacation.”

      A blogger in Japan told me that with the schools closed, all the kids are still congregating during the day and Japan won’t test because they don’t want to lose the Olympics. Who wants to tell them they’re gonna have to push it back a year anyway?!

  4. You wish that COVID-19 would only infect those willfully ignorant, or too selfish, or too privileged to care.

    My thoughts exactly. But Cassandra’s story is playing out again just as it did in Ancient Greece. What a world, one in which I find myself more frustrated by stupidity than by the actual virus, which I am taking seriously btw. You know, being aware of maths and logics and stuff.

    1. It’s like the plague-enthusiasts (anti-vaxxers). It would be one thing if they were the only ones affected (though horrible and unfair to their children). But they aren’t. It’s the immunocompromised children or the ones with allergies that would also suffer.

      What do we owe each other? A modicum of decency, empathy, and selflessness. And yet…

  5. This. ALL OF THIS. As someone who is an avid reader of international news, I’ve been quietly stocking up on essentials since early February. No, not loo roll–canned goods, flour, rice, tylenol. Two weeks ago my sister in law laughed at me for being over the top. Four days ago, the county I live in was the first in Pennsylvania to get restrictions imposed by the Governor (Democrat, not a coincidence, he believes in science and one of our county commissioners is a doctor).My sister-in-law finally panicked. I said, “Thank God!” Most of my neighbors seem to have said, “meh, stupid over reaction, I’m off to the bar — right after I run to the supermarket and buy up all the toilet paper.” Over the weekend, the local restaurants seemed to be as busy as ever. Un-f’ing real. Today the governor basically said, “OK bitches, you didn’t pay attention, bars are now closed and restaurants can only do takeout.”
    Yes, this is all about to get much, much worse.
    Picked up the college-age son from campus yesterday and was accused of over-reaction when I insisted all his belongings get locked away in the garage for a week to decontaminate, and showed him the clorox wipes and hand sanitizer next to the front door. And found myself wondering, with all the college kids heading home en masse in recent day from their petri-dish campuses, will we see an infection rate surge in about 5-10 days?
    Meanwhile, my UK-based family are living in some bizzaro twilight zone where the government talks about forcing all elderly people to stay at home “For their own protection” while letting the virus run rampant through the rest of the population.

    1. Good for you and your decontamination protocols! Yes, the photos of crowds and ST. Patrick’s Day parades were insane. Especially when you realize that most 18-29 year-olds are highly contagious but asymptomatic!

      Good for your governor.

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